Short stuff for kids

Here's what's happening in kids' news.

The great lizard chase

Catching a creature in the wild can be loads of fun. Just ask the students who are studying reptiles and amphibians in a Washburn University herpetology class in Topeka, Kan. In the 10th annual Running of the Lizards, these students – and anyone else who wanted to – caught and counted as many Italian wall lizards as they could.

In the 1960s, Italian wall lizards escaped (or were released) from a pet store, and they've thrived in Topeka ever since.

For the event, participants gather where the lizards were first let go, and then they're off for the chase.

This year, 17 students and about 20 others caught some 25 lizards and observed a dozen or so others in action before releasing all of them.

Joe Collins, who teaches the herpetology class, started the Running of the Lizards so students could get close to reptiles in the wild. He also wanted them to see how fast the lizards can hightail it to the nearest nook or cranny!

Surf the Web to get to school

You probably surf websites, chat with your friends online, or even play games over the Internet. But in all likelihood, you don't go to school via the Web. Yet that's what some students are doing in Florida, Michigan, and other US states.

Kids enrolled in "virtual schools" use the Internet to get their lessons. And they correspond with teachers and classmates through e-mail, special chat rooms, and phone calls.

Unlike home-school students who may be taught by a parent, kids in virtual school learn from teachers who are often part of the local school district.

Students in online classes learn at their own pace. They can work ahead in subjects they're good at, or take extra time in areas where they need help.

Choose your own TV show

After a long school day, you might want a break before starting homework. Maybe you want to watch a TV show, but the one you really like is on at a different time.

Now the Cartoon Network will let kids decide what programs they want to see in the afternoon. At www.cartoonnetwork.com, kids can vote for which shows they'd like to watch Monday through Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Then, the team that casts the most votes on Fridays gets to choose all the programs that will air between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. that day.

Dinos: the forefathers of birds?

When you hear the word "dinosaur," you might think "giant lizard." But not so, suggests new fossil evidence. Dinos may be more closely related to birds.

Scientists already knew that dinosaurs might be ancestors of birds, and that some even had feathers. What they didn't know was how these hulking creatures could have evolved into the petite winged animals we know today.

Paleontologists (scientists who study fossils) now have a clue. They recently unearthed the fossil of a new dino species in Mongolia's Gobi Desert. The species, called Mahakala, measured only about two feet from its head to the tip of its tail, and it would have weighed just three pounds.

The 80-million-year-old fossil indicates that Mahakala not only had feathers but also probably had winglike arms and hind limbs. This dinosaur couldn't fly, but its small size and feathered appendages meant that it was one step closer to this ability than its enormous predecessors.

Idea to invention

Have you ever had a great idea but felt there was no way to make it a reality? Do you wish you could spread the word about your best ideas? Do you want to know what cool things other kids are thinking up? Then check out the new By Kids, For Kids website at www.bkfk.com.

There, kids can organize, refine, and share their brightest ideas. The CEO of BKFK founded the company because he felt that young people haven't been given much opportunity to progress from idea to invention.

This online "creativity portal" focuses on four areas of innovation: "Say It" for creative storytellers, "Build It" for would-be inventors, "Design It" for fabulous fashionistas, and "Change It" for environmental buffs who want to make the world a better place.

This month, BKFK launched four competitions – one for each of the four categories. Winners will get prize money plus a "real world" experience tailored to each contest.

Spaced out

On Oct. 4, 1957, the former Soviet Union (now Russia and other countries) launched Sputnik, the first man-made satellite, into space. To mark this anniversary, the United Nations has designated Oct. 4-10 as World Space Week.

How will you celebrate? For starters, you'll want to check out the Oct. 2 Monitor article about American astronaut Sunita Williams. And visit www.spaceweek.org to find out about ways you and your family can commemorate mankind's 50 years of space exploration.

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